Have you seen these unusual sea creatures?
Many fish, yes, but other creatures, too!
While snorkeling with the Kai Kanani here in Maui you are sure to see an abundance of fish. But did you know there are many other creatures that call our waters home? Here are a few other sea creatures you may not have expected to see:
Here in Hawaii there are 2 types of lobster you may see, Spiny Lobster & Slipper Lobster. Neither lobster posses large claws for defense so they are actually not a true lobster. The Spiny lobster like it’s name, is covered in hundreds of sharp spines that will protect it while it hides in holes and under ledges. The slipper lobster has a very hard thick carapace (shell) that makes it very difficult for a predator to bite through. They are also able to flatten themselves to the ocean floor which also make it hard to attack them. Both lobsters hide in caves and are able to camouflage themselves well.
When snorkeling out at Molokini you may see what looks like a slug laying on the bottom in the sand. This is actually a Sea Cucumber. These slow moving echinoderms are filter feeders that feed off of decaying matter and algae. When threatened a sea cucumber may expel it’s internal organs, but can quickly regenerate them. There are many different colors and shapes so ask your naturalist if you think you see one!
Purple Velvet Sea Star seen by Kai Kanani Snorkelers in Makena
More commonly known as the Starfish, scientists have gone to great lengths to change the name of this echinoderm to a Sea Star because, well it’s not a fish. We have many types of Sea Stars in Hawaii and they come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Most often we will see the Cushion Sea Star or Crown of Thorns. As tempting as it may be, it’s never a good idea to grab one as many are toxic and will deliver a nasty sting.
Remember that sea cucumber you saw earlier that you thought was a sea slug? Well, actual sea slugs are called nudibranchs and come in amazing array of colors. These tiny invertebrate may be as small as just a few millimeters, or up to several inches like one of our favorites, the Spanish Dancer.
Octopus seen by Kai Kanani snorkelers in Makena, Maui, Hawaii
On of the most intelligent creatures you will meet on the reef is the octopus. These sly creatures camoflauge themselves in the coral and can change shape and colors in just a matter of seconds. When threatened, the octopus will release and ink into the water which not only confuses the predator, but can also deaden the sense of smell on many animals like the near blind eel.
Manta Rays and Spotted Eagle rays are the most common types of rays we see here. Manta Rays do not have any stinger and are usually all black, but may have some lighter markings. We often recognize the same rays by the various patterns on their back. Spotted Eagle Rays are generally smaller in size and can be recognized by the white spots on their backs. It’s always a wonderful treat to see these graceful animals at any of our snorkel locations.
Sea Jellies (Jelly Fish) are another marine animal that has lost the “fish” title over the years. While rarely seen on our trips, occasional changes in currents can bring by these pinhead-sized creatures. Sea Jellies move by pulsating a bell (head like area) and it’s always best to stay away from the trailing tentacles. There are several species of turtles which consider sea jellies a delicious treat.
Slate Pencil Urchin & Collector Urchin
Sea urchins are abundant in the shallower waters of Maui. The urchins we see most frequently are the collector, black spiny and red pencil urchin. Urchins or “Uni” is very popular on the menu in some areas, but it’s best not to go grabbing one as they can have extremely sharp spines and some are not edible.
Yellow Margin Moray Eel
There are about 38 different types of eels in Hawaii and they can be found among the ledges and crevices of our shallow, coastal waters. Hawaiian eels come in a wide variety of patterns, colors and sizes ranging from the often-seen Yellowmargin Moray Eel to the more elusive Dragon Moray Eel. You don’t have to worry about an eel chasing you down, but never try to pet or feed an eel as they have extremely sharp teeth.
Kai Kanani naturalists look forward to talking with you about any of the ocean life you see here. Our crew has been trained and certified as naturalist by the Hawaii Wildlife Fund and would love to answer any questions you may have.